May 23, 2015

FANTASTIC FOUR (1967)

AVENGERS ROLL CALL: Thing joined the West Coast Avengers in West Coast Avengers vol. 2 #9, 1986 but leaves soon after in the following issue. He later joins the Avengers in New Avengers vol. 2 #3, 2010, until leaving in Fantastic Four #600, 2012. Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman both joined the team in Avengers #300, 1989, but left to return to their own in Avengers #305, 1989.

FANTASTIC FOUR
(ABC, September 9, 1967-September 21, 1968)

Hanna-Barbera Productions, Marvel Comics Group


MAIN CAST:
Gerald MohrMr. Fantastic/Reed Richards, opening narration
Jo Ann PflugInvisible Girl/Susan Storm-Richards
Paul FreesThing/Benjamin J. Grimm, The Watcher, various

For the history of the Fantastic Four, check out the post here.
 
            Although they were Marvel Comics’ first family, they came relatively late to the party.


Character model promo art.


            Marvel had entered the world of animation in 1966 with The Marvel Super Heroes by Grantray-Lawrence Animation, which featured adaptations of several of their characters in scenes and stories lifted right from the comics. The Fantastic Four just missed the boat by being replaced by the original X-Men (called the Allies for Peace) in an episode of the Sub-Mariner segment since Grantray-Lawrence didn’t own their rights. The following year, along with Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four finally gained their own animated series by Hanna-Barbera Productions.

Skrull model sheet.

            Television agent Sy Fischer had spotted his son, Stuart, reading a Fantastic Four comic in the fall of 1966. Seeing potential in the idea for a show that was verified by his son, Fischer brought the property to the attention of Joseph Barbera. Barbera agreed with Fischer’s estimation and the pair contacted Stan Lee about acquiring the rights. Once granted, Hanna-Barbera put together a pitch for ABC who bought the show for the fall 1967 schedule.


Character model sheet for Dr. Doom.

            Featuring designs by Alex Toth, the series adapted stories straight from the comics with a few original ones thrown in. Co-creators Lee and Jack Kirby served as consultants. Episodes adapted directly from the comics featured credit towards the specific issues on their title cards in fine print. Characters from throughout the comics at the time made appearances, including the subterranean menace the Mole Man (who was able to be acquired from Grantray-Lawrence after he appeared in an Iron Man segment, voiced by Jack Flounders); the diabolical genius Dr. Doom (Joseph Sirola); the master of sound, Klaw (Hal Smith); the Soviet scientist Red Ghost (Vic Perrin) and his primate henchmen; master alchemist Diablo (Regis Cordic); the matter-manipulating Molecule Man; other-dimensional foe Blastaar (Frank Gerstle); and the mutli-powered Super-Skrull (Marvin Miller). Also making an appearance was Uatu, the Watcher (Frees); a cosmic being tasked with observing all events of a universe without interfering (also able to be acquired from Grantray-Lawrence, his having appeared in the Hulk segment).

Galactus faces down the FF and The Watcher.

Some changes were made, however, both due to the constraints of time and legal issues. To keep it a fast-paced action show, a lot of the character moments were stripped down or outright removed. Unlike the comics, Reed (Gerald Mohr) and Sue (Jo An Pflug) began the series as a married couple outside of flashbacks. Ben Grimm’s (Paul Frees) trouble regarding his appearance had less pathos and was played more for laughs. Instead of their typical Fantasticar, the primary mode of transport for the team was the U-Car that was seen in Fantastic Four Annual #1 (1963), as well as several other rockets and jets. 


The coming of Klaw!

Because Grantray-Lawrence Animation had the rights to the Sub-Mariner, the episodes “Demon in the Deep” and “Danger in the Depths” used replacements in new characters called Gamma (Perrin) and Prince Triton (Mike Road), as well as renaming Atlantis as Pacifica. Likewise, for similar reasons, the character of Ant-Man doesn’t appear in the story “The Micro World of Dr. Doom.” Because the character of Alicia Masters, the blind sculptress that would become Thing’s girlfriend, wasn’t introduced, Sue became the Silver Surfer’s (Perrin) connection to humanity that allowed him to turn against his master Galactus (who was colored green and blue instead of purple and blue, and played by Ted Cassidy) and save Earth (a change later duplicated decades later in the movie Rise of the Silver Surfer). Other coloring differences included tan skin, black hair, and a colorful outfit for Blastaar instead of his gray hair and skin and blue suit; Diablo wearing red, black and purple instead of green and black; and Red Ghost in a green jumpsuit instead of a red one (likely to downplay the Soviet connection of the character, which was never brought up on the show).

Model sheet for the soldiers of Pacifica.

The series debuted on ABC on September 9, 1967 and ran for 19 episodes, with one episode composed of two short segments and the final two episodes airing the following September. The introduction featured an opening narration, describing the events and characters to viewers; however, some reruns featured the opening without the narration, using just the images to convey the story. The series’ music was composed by Ted Nichols. To promote the series, Marvel published a package comic, America’s Best TV Comics, which featured reprinted strips about ABC’s Saturday line-up and ads for various other ABC programming.

Ad for ABC's 1967 Saturday morning line-up.

The series was abruptly cancelled by the network during the 1960s upheaval over violence on television. It was later rerun as part of Hanna-Barbera’s World of Super Adventure rerun package and again in the revamped Super Adventures package. Because Time Warner purchased the Hanna-Barbera library, this is one of the few Marvel animated series not currently owned by parent company Disney.



EPISODE GUIDE:
“Menace of the Mole Men” (9/9/67) – Mole Man lures the Fantastic Four to his island in order to capture them and commence with his plan of lowering various cities to his realm.

“Diablo” (9/16/67) – In Transylvania, Diablo manages to brainwash Thing into releasing him from his prison and proceeds to scam the world into believing he has the power to help everyone.

“The Way it All Began” (9/23/67) – Reed recalls the origins of the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom.

“Invasion of the Super-Skrull” (9/30/67) – Unable to defeat the Fantastic Four, the alien Skrulls create a Super-Skrull that possesses all of their powers.

“Klaws / The Red Ghost” (10/7/67) – Johnny takes a vacation just as Klaw sets his sights on destroying the Fantastic Four. / Reed’s race against Red Ghost to the moon leads to Sue being kidnapped.

“Prisoners of Planet X” (10/14/67) – A UFO abducts the Fantastic Four in order for dictator Kurrgo to demand they save his planet from another knocked off its orbit.

“It Started on Yancy Street” (10/21/67) – Red Ghost abducts the Fantastic Four to the moon where they use items in The Watcher’s lair to gain the upper hand.

“Three Predictions of Dr. Doom” (10/28/67) – Dr. Doom challenges the Fantastic Four against the fate of the world.

“Behold a Distant Star” (11/4/67) – A space trip ends up getting the Fantastic Four captured by a Skrull warlord who wants to overthrow the emperor.

“Demon in the Deep” (11/11/67) – Dr. Gamma is turned into Gamma Ray after being defeated by the Fantastic Four, and he looks for revenge with the aid of the monster Giganto.

“Danger in the Depths” (11/18/67) – Lady Dorma gains the aid of the Fantastic Four in helping rescue the undersea kingdom of Pacifica from the warlord Attuma.

“Return of the Mole Man” (11/25/67) – The Mole Man kidnaps Sue in order to force the Fantastic Four to keep the Army from halting his plans of sinking buildings into the sea.

“Rama-Tut” (12/9/67) – Reed uses Dr. Doom’s time machine to explore a theory of changing Ben back, ending up the foursome captured by Rama-Tut in 2000 B.C.

“Galactus” (12/16/67) – Galactus comes to devour the Earth, and while the Watcher sends Torch after a weapon against him Sue begins to win over his herald The Silver Surfer.

“The Micro World of Dr. Doom” (12/30/67) – Dr. Doom shrinks the Fantastic Four and imprison them in a Micro World.

“Blastaar, the Living Bomb-Burst” (1/6/68) – Deposed dictator Blastaar follows the Fantastic Four back to Earth where he proves too difficult to handle.

“The Mysterious Molecule Man” (1/13/68) – The Molecule Man seeks to take over the world, and only an irradiated meteor may hold the key to stopping him.

“The Terrible Tribunal” (9/14/68) – The Fantastic Four are taken to another planet and put on trial, with Klaw, Molecule Man and Blastaar as the plaintiffs.

“The Deadly Director” (9/21/68) – The Impostor lures the Fantastic Four into a death trap by posing as a Hollywood director wanting them for a movie.


Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2018.

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